Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister has urged Britons to respect his country’s death penalty, as the brutal Saudi justice system strains relations between the two countries.
Adel Al-Jubeir faced tough questioning from Channel 4 News Jonathan Rugman, who told the ambassador his country has a terrible image problem” and asked: You don’t have to execute as many people as you do, do you?
The minister responded: We have a fundamental difference, in your country, you do not execute people, we respect it. In our country, the death penalty is part of our laws and you have to respect this as it is the law.
The questioning comes after an international outcry over a number of high-profile executions in the state, including that of prominent Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Some 47 prisoners were executed by Saudi Arabia in one day earlier this month, prompting mass condemnation and protests across the Muslim world.
Later in the Channel 4 interview, Al-Jubeir said his country had to do more to address its bad reputation in the UK.
“With regards to the perception of Saudi Arabia among the British public, this is a problem that we need to work on. We have not been good at explaining ourselves,” he said.
“We have not done a good job at reaching out to the British media or the British public or to the British institutions, academic institutions, think tanks and so forth. We maybe not have been as communicative as we should be.”
At the time of Al-Nimr’s execution, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “2015 saw Saudi Arabia execute over 150 people, many of them for non-violent offences. Today’s appalling news, with nearly 50 executed in a single day, suggests 2016 could be even worse.
“Alarmingly, the Saudi Government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today.
“There are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman’s blade.
“Saudi Arabia’s allies – including the US and UK – must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course.”